I have spent a lot of hours over the past seven or eight months meeting with a great group of folks to organize and host this year’s Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire. I was asked to help organize this year’s faire by my friend Greg Austic.
While I participated in pretty much every aspect of the planning process, my focus was mostly to support marketing and promotion. So you’ll see my name almost exclusively on the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire’s blog for this year’s activities. I also got to be interviewed for a few articles by our local newspaper and I’ve included those links at the end of this post.
While the week leading up to the faire was intense, mostly making sure what we had lined up was really going to happen (and mapping out where all the exhibitors go–that is not as easy a task as you might think), I had a great time helping to organize this event.
I tried to say this in the press we received from annarbor.com, but something that I really love about the maker faires is that they are such a deep reflection of our community and each faire is unique in this respect. We’re starting to see a spectrum of innovators at our mini, from businesses, to start ups, to tinkerers, and students (from elementary to college). If you make something you’re proud of, you can showcase it at the faire. If you do this for a living, you can showcase it at the faire.
All the emphasis, though, is on the process of making and on the process of learning. It’s not about the end result but about how you got there–and showing people your path along the way. This participatory, peer-based learning and doing gets me excited for our future as our economies change. With an emphasis on a participant-driven culture, where things like knowledge, materials, content, and learning are shared, we can really do amazing things.
A lot of folks asked me how I personally got involved in organizing the Mini Maker Faire this year and at first I was at a loss when responding. It just happened. I just started becoming more and more involved in A2Geeks and community activities until I got asked to formally support it. Now I’m a board member of A2Geeks and have found myself working alongside some really engaging, thoughtful people who know how to make their ideas, dreams, and wacky inventions come to life, even if just for a day.
In this process I’ve come to realize that, growing up with my family, I’ve always been around makers. My dad is a ham radio operator and I grew up riding with him all over northwest Arkansas visiting other hams to swap parts, fix antennas, and work on things together. My dad was always making something at home in his ‘radio room’ and often I was hanging out, able to pass him the tools he needed to get the job done. I didn’t pick up the knack for Morse code but I’ve realized, as I’ve become more and more involved in the maker movement, that I was introduced to these ideas as a child. My mom was also a teacher when I was growing up–and not just any teacher. She taught at-risk kids and came home with stories that were often funny but sometimes quite tragic. She went the extra mile to help her kids out and over the years tangible things like my clothes, our bedding, and lots of other intangible things went from our house to her classroom for her kids. She inspired her students to reach beyond their means and believe in themselves. I think this inspiration is also part of the maker movement.
I’m really proud to be involved in supporting this kind of culture in my own community now, so many miles away from where I grew up. I carry these experiences with me and aim to incorporate them not just in my personal life, but in my professional life as well.
Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire Press: